Ottawa’s Polar Bear Club held it’s second annual fundraising event for the President’s Choice Children’s Charity on January 1, 2010. Members of the club jumped into the ice-cold Ottawa River in pairs as they brought in the New Year. Supervising the event was Steve Stewart, also known as Speedo-Steve. An experienced dipper, Stewart was a member of the original club, which was started by the Rideau-Osgoode Karate Club. Stewart resurrected the Polar Bear Club after the tradition was discontinued years earlier on the Rideau River.
Key Records videotaped Stewart and his helpers, John Horsley and Frank Villeneuve on the morning of December 31, 2009 as they prepared the chosen site for the event. With measuring tape and chainsaws they carved out a pool of water in the river ice for the dippers. While watching the men work we learned Stewart had injured his ribs days earlier and might not be making the plunge into the icy-waters. However, the next day he lived up to his title and appeared wearing a Speedo bathing suit. He then entered the water slowly by ladder to the delight of the spectators. Future plans for the event, which raised approximately 4,800. dollars from pledges, are already under way for next years January 1, 2011 celebrations. For those interested in participating it is important to join a club where safety precautions are firmly in place. Stewart’s team chooses their water depth and location carefully. They also tie ropes around the dippers before allowing them to take the plunge. Dippers then climb out of the water by ladder or are helped out of the water onto a matt. St. John’s ambulance attendants are also on stand by, as the chilled dippers exit the icy-waters and enter the heated tents that are powered by generators.
Click here to see video of the dippers Polar Bear Dippers